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We Are Flying Solo

May 25, 2012

Horses Are Horses And There's Not A Damn Thing You Can Do About It

I've been posting running updates on Encore on the TFS Facebook page, but I wanted to talk a little about the underlying issues.

I know there are people out there who will say, ha, I knew it, all OTTBs have issues and I will never buy one.

Well, you would be missing out.  Because you want to know the 100% honest truth?  You can never predict which horse will be sound throughout its career (pretty rare) and which horse will have issues on and off and which horse will have to be retired prematurely. 

You can buy a beautifully perfect two year old warmblood with impeccable bloodlines who has never been touched and it can try to reach the wrong clump of grass and break its silly neck in the gate.

You can buy an 18-year-old campaigner who's evented through Advanced and been working since he was 3 and he can never have a problem and you can show him until he's 30.

I know (well, online "know") an excellent breeder/owner who produces beautiful eventers and raises them exactly the right way.  They start out with road work and cow work on all types of terrain, they build their bones and soft tissue, they don't start jumping till they are four or five, I mean EVERYTHING right.  Yet one of her horses still suffered a catastrophic bone shatter on course after reaching the top levels of the sport.  It's a cruel and horrible thing, but there is no insurance that says your horse will never have a problem.

Horse ownership is a risk, plain and simple.  When you start to compete, you (exponentially, I have concluded) raise that risk as you ask more from the horse and his body.

Encore raced steadily for three years and 26 races and as far as I know, did not have issues.  Parklane Hawk, who is currently taking William Fox-Pitt on a run for the eventing Grand Slam, raced 144 times and is insanely athletic and brave and takes on the biggest, baddest jumps there are and keeps on winning.

Some of it is heart, some of it is luck, and the rest is just...horses.  Each one is unique and (if you are a pushover like me) each one is special and has something to teach. 

So my advice to you is to never walk away from a horse just because "it's an OTTB" or "it needs a hock injection" or "it's over 10" or any of those types of reasons.  There are so many great diagnostics and treatment options out there and OMG, BUY INSURANCE and when you find a horse that you click with, give him a chance to be the best he can be and I promise that you will have time of your life, even when there are speed bumps.


  1. I totally agree! My almost 20-year-old QH (the one I'm putting down in a couple weeks) got a bowed tendon at the age of 5 while warming up for barrel racing. The vet gave me 2 options: put him out to pasture for a year (this was 15 years ago), or have him euthenized. I opted for the first. Now he's turning 20 and that leg hasn't given us any problems in 15 years.
    Horses are horses, and there's nothing you can do about them.

  2. Ok, for those of us who are too cool for Facebook--what's going on?!

  3. Frizz, I'm off the interwebz for the weekend, but there will be a full post when I get back. I will drop a hint: the news is relatively good and promising.

  4. AMEN! Horses are big, strong and sometimes fierce... but oh so fragile! They know a million ways to hurt themselves. Thanks for the post!

  5. Great Post! I actually just bought an OTTB, Too Many Whyz *still jumping up and down about that :D* He raced 21 times and looked to have some rounding on his front ankles. I hadn't planned on buying him b/c of that and he is a little bigger than I'd ideally wanted but I started riding him for my trainer and absolutely fell in love with his personality and athleticism. I went ahead and took a chance and had his front ankles x-rayed and they turned out to be in pretty great shape, looked much worse than they actually were. He was cleared for eventing and I decided to go ahead and take a chance on him. It's like you said you just never know... Either way it is too late now b/c I love him!!

    I hope Encore's issue clears up as quickly and inexpensively as possible!

  6. Agree, agree, agreee! I have an OTTB that had 75 starts and has no known history of soundness issues on the track. At the age of 12 and racing for 8 of those years has zero signs of any arthiritis. And has been 100% sound since the day I owned him. You just never know one way or the other. Horses are horses.

  7. 100% agreed. A friend of mine has a 29yo QH who didn't start trail riding until he was 18. He has over 5k endurance miles and is still going strong. Her 10 year old, 100% prospect who was started carefully with a clean history and great pedigree ripped his stifle in the field and had to be put down months later despite all the best treatment medicine and money had to offer. You just never ever know.

  8. I think you should win a prize for the best post titles. They always catch my mouse as I scroll down the reading list. :)

    Please keep us posted. I am glad to read that the outlook is promising.

    It is true that there are no guarantees, which is why a healthy, sound horse who loves his job and can keep doing it for decades is a living miracle!

  9. I am so glad there is good news for you and Encore. Speedy recovery from Christu and Malibu!

  10. Amanda -- I am so excited for you!!!

    Dom, that is an awesome story. Ok, well, the first part; the second part is sad, but I love the old guy who just keeps on truckin'!

    Val, ROFL!! As soon as I have some energy back in my totally exhausted body, I have lots of things to write about.

  11. Great article! Couldn't agree more.